Southern New Hampshire University’s mission statement reads that by “relentlessly challenging the status quo and providing the best support in higher education, [SNHU] expands access to education by creating high quality, affordable and innovative pathways to meet the unique needs of each and every student.”
One way SNHU has taken initiative in meeting the needs of its students has manifested in the newly built and soon-to-be open residence hall, Monadnock. With the support and drive of the The President’s Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Advocacy, Monadnock will be opened in the fall with multiple single use bathrooms marked with signs indicating its inclusive nature.
President Paul LeBlanc explains exactly why this initiative aligns the university’s mission statement and was a necessary step forward. “Education is the great enabler and equalizer, the force that allows individuals to reach their potential, to dream bigger dreams, and to be more fully engaged with a much bigger world… More than most industries, higher education is slow to change and is often stuck in a “this is the way it has always been” mentality. We refuse to accept that the way it was must always be the way it should be. If there is a better possible way to serve our students, we’ll explore it.”
Shannon Brown, Director of Residence Life, discussed the role that housing played and will continue to play in creating a campus and community that is open and accepting for all SNHU students. “It is our job to create housing options so that all of our students feel safe and welcome. It is our job that everyone should have facilities that are safe and affirm their gender identities,” Brown said.
Dee Dube (‘18), a three-year member for the President’s Commission and President of Generation Equality, described the process and her joy at the success of these signs being approved and put into action. Dube said, “I know I would have been ecstatic to see these signs up as an incoming first-year student. I’m hopeful that the people these signs are meant to make comfortable feel similarly.”
William “Wil” Zemp, Senior Vice President, Strategy and University Chief of Staff echoed the importance of this step forward, and the intentions of these actions. “Our inclusion goals are clear and deliberate – no one in the SNHU community should be made to feel like they need “permission” to pursue an academic pathway or any opportunity because of orientation, gender, social status or race,” Zemp said.
This dedication to the inclusion of transgender students at SNHU has come, however, to be juxtaposed against the recent statements made by President Trump. Wednesday morning, July 25, Trump tweeted that the “United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
In response to this statement, Zemp reflected on his experience serving in the military, saying “As someone who has spent 25 years as a Soldier… I don’t think any person needs permission to defend their country or serve their fellow citizen.”
Russ Giordano (‘18), vice chair of the SNHU College Republicans commented similarly, saying, “As long as someone passes the physical tests and health tests they should be allowed to serve.”
As the fall semester approaches, Leblanc recognizes the role higher education plays in setting a positive example for change. In line with the values and goals of Southern New Hampshire University, LeBlanc states the support that all students can find on campus and in this community.
“There was a time when the Irish were considered different and lesser. Black Americans, women, transgendered people and others are still fighting that fight. SNHU will be on their side in every way we can.”